No longer reserved solely for jug bands and moonshine, growlers are all the rage. But why? Sixty-four ounces of beer jug doesn't sound chic—or really all that slimming or easy to transport; yet it is. In fact, bulk-section beer popularity has skyrocketed in recent years, leaving cider and kombucha rushing to open their own taps. And thanks to a recent concession from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, wine now gets to join the supersize party, too.
It appears to be a Growler Gold Rush (GGR) with new fill stations every month capitalizing on this trend. But who's going out of their way to buy bulk beer? Turns out, beer explorers. Early in the GGR, growlers were discounted beer. It is cheaper and easier for most breweries to fill growlers rather than bottle or can their products, and the savings were passed on to the consumer—a reality that unfortunately has faded. Growlers usually cost as much, sometimes more per ounce than any other packaging.
Another important growler topic is etiquette. Yes, there is proper growler etiquette for both the customer and the tap owner. Customers must always present clean and dry growlers for filling. It's rude to hand over a sticky, stinky growler, and it will taint the next fill. The cap should also be clean and dry or a new one should be purchased. The growler station's role is to use a clean fill tube each time. They have no guarantees that each customer's growler was properly cleaned and sanitized so using a clean tube with each fill prevents cross-contamination.
There are a few laws that must be mentioned, too. Growlers can be of any size but cannot exceed two gallons. And, according to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, "filled growlers are subject to Oregon's open container laws, so please transport them with a secure lid or cover, in the trunk or out of reach in the back seat, not accessible to the driver."
Bad news first. There are three false reasons to love growlers:
1. The beer does not keep as well as promised. Once the beer leaves the keg, it starts going downhill. Oxygen and light are kryptonite to beer. Clear growlers are the worst offenders, and all growlers allow in oxygen, causing the aging process to rapidly set in. Enjoying the growler the same day is usually good. The second day may still be OK, but day three will surely degrade the contents of the growler.
2. Some people like to claim that draft tastes better; it doesn't. What really tastes better is drinking from a glass. Aromas are where nuance and personality live. Drinking directly from a bottle or can is almost like drinking with a nose plug. Good for cough syrup; bad for craft beverages.
3. "Beer on tap is fresher." Is it? Tap offers no guarantee of freshness. Once a brewer is ready to ship beer, they ship it. Perhaps the bottles in the beer aisle are from a newer batch. It's simply supply and demand. Sales determine the freshness of beer, not the packaging.
But there is hope. Here are five great reasons to enjoy growler fill stations:
1. Less packaging waste. Not only better for the environment, bottle returns are annoying.
2. Forcing a glass pour. While it's true that glassware is not required to drink from a growler, most people choose the classy route. Drinking from a glass allows all the aromas to be experienced in their fullest.
3. Growler stations are non-bar bars. It's always nice to sit down and enjoy a pint and some conversation. Growler stations allow for enjoying a beer in a different atmosphere. They feel more like a quick break in the day than a place to get your drink on.
4. Many beverages aren't available in small packaging. Some brewers lack the resources to offer anything other than kegs. Even the brewers that do have other packaging, brew many beers that won't make it into bottles or cans. When that happens, tap handles are the only choice.
5. Try it before you buy it! The best reason to visit growler stations is to taste new or unfamiliar drinks before purchasing. Exploring beer is fun, but nobody likes spending hard-earned money on a letdown.
The Growler Guys
Eastside: 7 am–midnight,
2699 NE Hwy 20
Westside: Sun–Wed, 7–10 pm,
Thurs-Sat, 7–11 pm
1400 NW College Way
10 am–8 pm
20425 Empire St.
10 am–7 pm
1244 NW Galveston Ave.
Tumalo Country Store
64683 Cook Ave.
CE Lovejoy Love Handles
8 am–9 pm
19540 Amber Meadow Dr.
Big Dog Growlers
61160 S Hwy 97